Roger Winters, who gave keynote at first Seattle Pride, remembered for lifetime of LGBTQIA civil rights work

By Renee Raketty

Seattle mourned the passing of Roger Winters, an early pioneer in the movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. He passed away this week in his Shoreline home after suffering a recent bout of pneumonia. The former Capitol Hill resident and property owner was 75 years old.

“The Seattle community — and the world at large — lost a true champion for gay rights with his passing,” said Krystal Marx, Executive Director of Seattle Pride. “Roger’s decades of advocacy and political savvy helped to propel LGBTQIA+ rights forward in a way we would not have had without his involvement.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan agreed. In a written statement to CHS, she spoke of his relentless efforts to obtain equality for the LGBTQIA+ community. “Roger Winters worked for decades to ensure the dignity, rights and true equality for LGBTQ individuals. His voice and personal courage were unflagging over the almost 30 years that it took for LGBTQ people to get civil rights legislation,” said Durkan. “In the last four years, we have seen that these rights are far from guaranteed. This administration has directly targeted the transgender community and critical LGBTQ protections. In just the last few weeks, a U. S. Supreme Court Justice stated that hard fought wins for LGBTQ equality should be rolled back, and that some discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is a constitutional right. To honor the memory of Roger Winters and all of the other LGBTQ leaders we have lost this year, we must continue to fight.”

Susan Priebe, who met Winters in 2002 and became close friends, spoke with me to discuss Winters’ passing. She has agreed to handle his affairs on behalf of his family.

“Roger was deeply intellectual and also a fun-loving character — going from a profound philosophical statement one minute, to singing a ditty from a 50’s sitcom the next. He was a very loving and caring person, spending hours upon hours of personal time on issues and projects to improve everyone’s lives,” she said. “Roger was an insanely involved person, politically astute, a creative soul, and a very devout atheist… In the LGBT arena alone, Roger was involved with many groups from 1977 through the rest of his life.”

“Roger was a go-to leader and pioneer who helped pave the way for LGBTQ equality,” former Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said.

Winters grew up in a conservative Christian household in Indianapolis and spent time on farms during his youth. He attended Indiana University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government. He went on to attend Harvard University on a fellowship where he became a Senior Tutor at Dudley House on campus and, later, graduated with honors in Political Science. He became an intern for Senator Birch E. Bayh, Jr., a Democrat from Indiana. In 1972, he joined the faculty of Central Washington University, where he was a Assistant Professor of Political Science. It was here, when he became involved in Seattle politics. He traveled from Kittitas County, where CWU is located, to attend board meetings of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington in Seattle.

“We white boys started out conservative because we were invisible enough to pass in a gay-unfriendly world,” Winters wrote to me in a text on March 23, 2019, while discussing his upbringing and personal growth. “Those of us who got active recognized that other people who couldn’t or wouldn’t pass were really needing the legal protection and anti-discrimination [law] we were after but we didn’t understand their point of view. We embraced diversity and sought to be inclusive.”

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Really old Bordeaux House proposed as new landmark on Capitol Hill’s Millionaire’s Row — UPDATE

“Figure 73: Thomas Bordeaux and his first wife, Mary Ritner Bordeaux, circa late 1880s-early 1890s. [Courtesy of Liz Arbaugh, director of the Mason County Historical Society]”

A 118-year-old Capitol Hill mansion built for the family of a Pacific Northwest timber baron is being considered for city landmark status as owners along the neighborhood’s Millionaire’s Row look to shore up historical protections for the area’s aging — and relatively enormous — homes in the face of ongoing demand for new housing.

The Thomas and Sarah Esther Bordeaux House at the corner of 14th Ave E and E Valley will come before the city’s landmarks board Wednesday afternoon.

City staff have recommended it move forward in the nomination process citing the structure’s embodiment of “distinctive visible characteristics of an architectural style, or period, or a method of construction”  — “a distinctive combination of the Queen Anne and Tudor Revival architectural styles,” the nomination report reads — and its presence as a monument to the work of architect William Kimball: Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Volunteer Park Cafe says goodbye… for now?

(Image: Volunteer Park Cafe)

Nearly 14 years of baking and cafe goodness has come to an end at 17th and Galer where there is also an uncertain future for the 117-year-old house that stands there.

The Volunteer Park Cafe served its final batch of muffins, scones, and breakfast sandwiches over the weekend under owner Ericka Burke who announced the restaurant’s closure with a post celebrating the Biden-Harris victory while bidding a bittersweet farewell to the home and business:

It is a HAPPY SAD day. We have new president in the house and tomorrow will be our last day in this #littleyellowhouse. It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye- it’s been a wild ride. Our hearts are filled with optimism about the future. It’s been 15 years of #alwaysfreshgoodness. We are excited as we move forward to find goodness in everything that crosses our paths. On this little corner we have experienced so much- joy, challenges, life, death, but most of all LOVE and FRIENDSHIP. For that we are immensely GRATEFUL. Thank you. To my VPC ride or die crew-thank you from the bottom of my heart. You all made VPC happen. I could have never done it without your talents, huge hearts, your scrappy determination. You are my family and you always will be. I LOVE you. We will see you on the flip side. Peace out and thank you for so many years of support!

The closure comes following the 17th and Galer’s cafe’s reopening in May after a temporary shutdown under COVID-19 restrictions that also threw a planned sale of the house and business into limbo. Continue reading

Bid protest delays start of construction but Volunteer Park amphitheater replacement still planned for summer debut

A last minute wrinkle has further delayed the start of construction on the $3,000,000 Volunteer Park amphitheater replacement project but the city says the effort is about to get back on track.

According to the city and the Volunteer Park Trust, a protest was filed against the winning bid in the city’s contracting process and the project is out for a rebid ending November 4th. The city did not provide details of why the protest was filed against the bid selected in August but the procedure usually occurs when another bidder shows that the winning proposal would not meet the needs of the contract. Continue reading

Toppled Confederate monument in Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemetery won’t be restored

It’s gone for good (Image: CHS)

In a victory for those who have been calling for its removal for years, the toppled United Confederate Veterans Memorial sitting in Capitol Hill’s Lake View Cemetery won’t be restored as the structure is past repair, a cemetery representative tells CHS.

The controversial memorial to Confederate soldiers of the Civil War was vandalized and pulled down over the Fourth of July weekend. With the rubble now removed, all that remains of its nearly century-long existence are a series of orange cones and red tape.

“There’s no process to restore it. It’s gone,” the representative said. “The vandals came in and they just ruined it but we were in the process of getting rid of it anyway.” Continue reading

Speaking of Capitol Hill walls, here’s how this Lake View Cemetery construction project gave new life to a row of Seattle’s ‘exceptional trees’

As far as new Capitol Hill walls go, it will be easier to miss this one. There’s a big change on the backside of the neighborhood’s Lake View Cemetery near 11th and E Howe and it comes with some good news for some old Seattle trees. This cemetery improvement didn’t end up costing the lives of a row of Bigleaf Maples, American Elms, and Copper Beeches that have rooted into the cemetery’s soil for decades.

The construction project “for replacement of an existing and failing retaining wall” for the cemetery on the backside of Lake View started its permitting process about two years ago. According to city records, as the process proceeded last year, it became clear that the planned removal of 14 “exceptional trees” and the possible removal of a dozen more to make way for a new wall faced too many barriers to proceed.

The trees are variously exceptional individually by species and size and/or as a part of a grove,” a city update from May of 2019 reads. Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Seattle Asian Art Museum not yet part of SAM’s return

Volunteer Park’s Seattle Asian Art Museum won’t be part of the Seattle Art Museum’s reopening after closing five months ago due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

SAM announced its reopening plans Monday after statewide restrictions (PDF) on museums — and bowling alleys! — were loosened :

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) reopens its downtown museum to the general public on Friday, September 11. The museum will initially be at a limited capacity and open Fridays through Sundays, 10 am–5 pm. SAM Shop and SAM Gallery will also reopen. TASTE Café at SAM, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and the PACCAR Pavilion at the Olympic Sculpture Park remain closed until further notice. Timed tickets will be sold online only beginning September 4 for the September 11 general public reopening.

Under the state’s current limits, capacity must be restricted to 25%. Continue reading

Weeklong Chilean protest exhibit opens — outside — at Volunteer Park

This image from Sonia Rossel López is part of Chile Woke, an exhibition of documenting protests across Chile

Before the Volunteer Park Amphitheater as we know it gets torn down and upgraded as part of an end-of-summer replacement project, nonprofit organization Chile Woke is using the space for an art exhibition precisely because of its old, slightly dilapidated brick wall. The fresh air and social distancing opportunity of Volunteer Park is also, of course, key.

Rebeca Sanchez and Marcela Soto, two Chileans living in Seattle, formed Chile Woke as a way to showcase the work of artists documenting protests across Chile in response to widespread economic and social inequality.

Starting Sunday, Chile Woke is putting on its first large-scale, free exhibit: The Uprise of Chilean Graphics and Street Photography.

“Our idea is to try to bring the feeling of what is going on in Chile and specifically how posters and messages have been taking over the walls in the streets and becoming kind of like the people’s bulletin board,” Sanchez said. Continue reading

A demolition on Millionaire’s Row

Face masks helped filter the smell of dust and mildew as a crew set about the unusual task Thursday of tearing down an original house of Seattle’s Millionaire’s Row, the 14th Ave E entryway to Volunteer Park.

Also unusual for a Capitol Hill demolition: The house will be replaced by another single-family home — not apartments, not townhomes. Continue reading

Return of the Volunteer Park Cafe

Volunteer Park Cafe is set to return — with pizza… and more (Image: Volunteer Park Cafe)

The deal to buy the Volunteer Park Cafe and the old house turned neighborhood market it calls home is on hold. But it is not exactly back on the market, either. Here’s what is certain.

After weeks of a COVID-19 restrictions-forced shutdown at 17th and Galer, the cafe is being readied for a Mother’s Day return to business and a renewed effort to serve its northern Capitol Hill neighborhood with baked goods, to go meals, and provisions.

“The deal not going through made me put my boxing gloves back on,” owner Ericka Burke tells CHS. “I’m trying to make it work.” Continue reading